Best old-school Italian joint in the East Village - 2007
John's of 12th Street
John's of 12th Street, off Second Avenue, could be a contender in a lot of categories: It's got a tasty broccoli rabe, a nice veal chop, a great carbonara. But you come here mostly for that aura—dim lighting, old wooden booths, wisecracking waiters, a massive candle in the back that's been building up wax since the place opened in 1908, and a gorgeous old tile floor. John's is so legitimately old-school that it served as the setting for a grisly scene in The Sopranos' final season, the one where Tony pistol-whips Coco, a soldier in New York's Lupertazzi crime family, for having disrespected his daughter Meadow. The foot-rail along the bar provides Tony with the opportunity to perform a particularly vicious exercise known in some sections of Brooklyn as "biting the curb"; suffice it to say that numerous bloody molars skitter across said tile floor. As the fellow at the table next to ours told his date with a straight face the last time we were there: "Try the veal, it's the best in the city."